Andy Esiet, Calabar
To evade an imminent breakout of communal clash between communities in Cross River and Abia states, the family and people of Ikun in Biase Local Government Area of Cross River state have called on the Nigerian Army and the Federal government to ensure the release of their son allegedly kidnapped by some youths in Okon Ohafia in Ohafia LGA of Abia state.
Already tension is mounting in the Ohafia community for fear of a military invasion to rescue their colleague, Staff Sergeant Ikunegwang Bassey Ikunegwang, kidnaped last week by some youths in the boundary area between Ikun and Okon Ohafia community as he was on motorcycle to board a vehicle back to his station in Lagos.
AN eye witness on Sunday in a phone conversation said that he carried the soldier who was on his way back just a few days ago where Ikun has boundary with Okon Ohafia in particular , “they abducted him and dragged him away as he was shouting I am a Nigerian soldier, I am a Nigerian soldier but They were not bordered. They seized him and dragged him away and still now we have not heard of him”.
The kidnapped soldier’s father, Chief Bassey Ikunegwang, said, “since the disappearance of my son things have not been the same with me. I am extremely worried and my fear is that he may have been killed but I do not know why any normal person would drag and presumably kill a Nigerian soldier who was going back to his place of duty.
“We have been searching for him in nearby villages but to no avail. The summary is that a Nigerian soldier has been seized and abducted on his way returning to his place of duty in Lagos and we fear he must have been killed by now but that fear has not been confirmed because nobody has heard from him and they seized his phone”.
A prominent community leader in Ikun, Chief Sam Bassey in Calabar said, “this action by our Neighbours is capable of triggering another conflict but I have been talking to the youths to take it easy and follow the legitimate channels in search of the young man.
“The police have been alerted, I also asked them to write to the 14th Brigade, Nigerian Army in Ohafia to raise an alarm and see what government and law enforcement agencies can do to rescue the young man, if he is still alive. It is capable of aggravating the long standing hostilities between Ikun and Ohafia communities but we are trying to see how we can play it down and God willing, of the young man is found alive, well and good but if he is not, the rest is left to anybody’s guess”.
Bassey narrated that the conflict between the two communities has been there for over 100 years, the white people in the colonial days even tried by putting boundaries round the place three times but they were removed in 1995 by Ohafia people. These boundaries were fixed by the colonial masters in 1952 and in 1949 before this boundary was fixed, there was a judgement in favour of the Ikun against Ohafia in the West African court of appeal.
“We won the case and the exhibit used to win the case was given to the authorities that were then and by 1952, they established the boundary by the colonial masters but these our neighbours removed the boundaries again in 1995 which brought about the escalation of hostilities again between the two communities which we have been trying to bring down and maintain peace but it does seem to me that there are people, particularly from Okon Ohafia, who are hell bent on ensuring there would be no peace in that axis.
“I feel the Federal Government should step in and do something so that we do not loose more lives. If a buffer zone can be created with a stationed mobile police unit, that would be very welcomed to prevent further hostilities. Last time there was hostility there which claimed lives and properties, including mine, was in 1999. I was almost killed there, precisely on the 10th of January 1999 but by God’s grace I escaped and then by April 1999, they came back and burnt my house and so many other houses and killed people. There are still occasional flashes of hostility that we try to play down”.